Australian Territory Considers Proposal to Prohibit Residency for HIV-Positive Individuals
Lawmakers in the Australian territory of Norfolk Island will next month debate a controversial measure that would "keep the island AIDS-free" by barring people with HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C from migrating there, Reuters reports. Under the proposal, people infected with HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C would not be allowed to move to Norfolk Island, although there would be no restrictions placed on those who want to visit the island, Norfolk Island Chief Minister Geoffrey Gardner said. Norfolk Island Assembly member John Brown, who drafted the proposal, said that the measure aims to "protect the fragile local health system from having to cope with the potentially enormous cost" of treating HIV-positive residents (Reuters, 1/17). Brown said that the island's hospital is not equipped to "cope" with "serious health problems" such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. "We do not have the facilities and we do not have the funds to provide the treatment that those people require. It's simply inappropriate for someone to expect to just move to Norfolk Island and become a burden on the Norfolk Island health scheme if they have [HIV or hepatitis]," Brown added. Brown said that federal law in Australia does not allow people with HIV or the two forms of hepatitis to move into the country, but an immigration spokesperson "denied [that] HIV and hepatitis automatically barred a person from emigrating to Australia" (Australian Associated Press, 1/17). To take effect, the proposal must be passed by the Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly. The federal government, however, can overturn the law (Reuters, 1/17).
AIDS Groups Riled
AIDS groups criticized the proposal as "discriminatory" and "outrageous." Chris Puplick, president of Australia's National Council on AIDS, Hepatitis C and Related Diseases, said, "It's not justified on any grounds including public health grounds, and it's an act of discrimination and prejudice which would not be allowed anywhere else in Australia" (Mathieson, Australian Associated Press, 1/17). Puplick said that the cost of treating people with HIV or the two forms of hepatitis "is not a major problem" because the cost of treatment is "essentially borne" by Australia's national health plan (Australian Associated Press, 1/17). "Unless the federal government is totally morally bankrupt, it will act to advise the governor general to disallow any such piece of legislation," Puplick said, adding that allowing the law to remain would constitute an "appalling ac[t] of cowardice" (Mathieson, Australian Associated Press, 1/17).